DISCLAIMER - From Eroica With Love and its characters is the copyright of Yasuko Aoike and Princess Comics and no infringement is intended. The story, such as it is, is copyright Karen Colohan , December 2001.
Set up of mission situation
Peripheral vision gave Z the merest glimpse of light reflecting off dulled metal, immediately capturing his attention. Turning his head, his eyes quickly located the source of that faint glimmer. The barrel of a gun - and the major was walking straight into its line of fire.
There was no time for more than purely instinctive action; no clear target to aim at with his own weapon. Z reacted in the only way he could think to.
"Sir!" he yelled, beginning to run even as he opened his mouth to give voice to that single word.
Klaus turned, his forward motion halted by the sudden authoritative shout from Z. His dark brows were drawn down in a frown as green eyes cast about warily, seeking the reason for his agent's warning. But from his vantage point he couldn't see where the danger lay, even as he took a few brisk steps back towards Z.
It wasn't enough. The hidden gunman still had a clear shot and the faint click in the moment of silence that ensued told Z that he was about to take it, before his chance was lost.
"Get down!" Z shouted again. In the same instant, he launched himself at the major, desperate to push him out of harm's way.
Klaus was no fool. He didn't need to be told twice. He dropped at once as a sickeningly loud report echoed in the air. The sound of another shot came almost immediately on the heels of the first. That was followed only seconds later by a strangled cry. Then something heavy and warm stumbled over him, falling half on top of his prone form. Z, watching his back as a good agent should, thought Klaus, in the moment before he rolled out from under the blanketing weight.
His own gun was now ready in his hand and Klaus focused all his concentration on the enemy.
The gunman had risen from cover in that brief instant of confusion, approaching at a run. He was clearly intent on completing his thwarted mission.
Klaus could understand that, could appreciate such dedication to duty. It made no difference to his actions, though. He moved into a sitting position with the smooth ease of a man who completed a hundred sit-ups at a time without breaking a sweat. He aimed and fired instinctively, even as he found himself staring down the barrel of his opponent's gun.
The bullet's impact dropped the man in his tracks. He screamed hoarsely as pain overwhelmed him - wounded, but not dead. Klaus wanted information from him, and he could tell the major nothing if he were killed.
Sudden silence reigned and Klaus could feel his heart pounding, the adrenalin still rushing through his veins. Danger was an old, welcome companion and Klaus sank back onto his elbows, giving him his due for just a moment. It was only the briefest of moments, though, before he was on the move again, rising onto his knees preparatory to standing.
Before he did, he turned to look at Z. The young agent's warning had undoubtedly saved his life; a word of thanks was appropriate under such circumstances.
The sight which greeted Klaus as he looked round almost stopped his heart. Z lay face down on the hard ground, unmoving. The reason for that was clear enough - his back was sodden with blood that had leaked from a single, neat wound between his shoulders. Now Klaus understood the meaning of that odd cry as Z had fallen. Had he not been so focused on his own survival he might have realised it sooner.
Klaus felt himself go cold with shock. No, this couldn't happen - not to Z - he wouldn't let it happen. He drew in a deep breath, steeling himself. Now, more than ever, he needed to be calm and clear-headed. Precious seconds had already been lost as it was.
"Z!" Klaus called sharply. He hoped the sound of his voice would garner a response of some kind from his fallen agent, but Z lay as still and silent as before.
One hand reached inside Klaus' jacket for his phone even as the other came to rest carefully against the side of Z's neck, searching for a pulse. For a horrified second Klaus thought there wasn't one, but then he felt it - weak, uneven, but blessedly present. Relief hit the major low in the gut as he waited with barely restrained impatience for A to answer his phone.
"A, get medical assistance to me at once," Klaus ordered. "I'm at [give location]. It's an emergency. Z's been shot - it's serious."
Klaus heard the gasp of shock, quickly masked, as A took in his words. Then well-honed instincts took over and he replied crisply, "At once, sir."
The major didn't wait for any questions to be forthcoming; he simply shut off his phone and tossed it to the ground, heedless. Seconds later he was tearing off his jacket, wadding it up and pressing it as hard as he dared against the wound in Z's back. He had no idea if the bullet had gone all the way through or lodged somewhere inside the agent's body. Regardless, Z had already lost too much blood; he couldn't spare more.
Klaus quickly checked for a pulse again - still there, but weakening. He cursed under his breath and hoped to God that A could get an ambulance to him fast. He spared a moment to carefully turn Z's head to the side; he didn't want him to choke or suffocate in the meantime. As Klaus settled the blond head in its new position he almost wished he'd left things as they were. Now he could see clearly the unnatural paleness of Z's fair skin and his blued lips, flecked with blood. It wasn't looking good at all...
The major felt his heart contract. It should have been him, not Z, lying there. Damned idiot, throwing himself in the path of a bullet...
The pain was almost a physical blow and Klaus bowed his head. His agents might believe he never felt anything at the loss of one of his men, but they were wrong. Perhaps he didn't show it - Iron Klaus couldn't reveal any weakness in front of them - but he felt every death acutely, a heavy weight of guilt and failure. Z couldn't be added to that toll, couldn't die. He was young, so much of his life ahead of him. He had to live...
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